An architect can architect architecture?
This Guest Post is by Alicia Liebel Berg
Jared’s Update 01/16/14: make sure to read the great counterpoint in the first comment by Parallax.
A few weeks ago I watched in horror as the media-starved leadership of the architecture profession hitched onto the bandwagon of Kanye West. The self-glorified media trollip swaggered into a studio filled with Harvard design students and proclaimed to the mountain tops that, “The world can be saved through design, and everything needs to actually be ‘architected.”
Wait…what? An architect can architect architecture?
Someone notify the controversy brigade; the architecture profession has a celebrity endorsement for the value of architected architecture. Surely one of the oldest professions in humanity can do better than that! And while I discharge my frustrations upon this architecturally ignorant individual, there is an underlying lesson in his ostentatious behavior: the art of the humblebrag. Despite his unorthodox methodologies for garnering media attention, Kanye does create a considerable amount of publicity on his own behalf. One could look at it as controlling one’s self image.
While the architecture profession struggles to define their value I now find myself aghast that the architecture profession hasn’t taken ownership of our message. All too often you hear of firm principals lamenting, “The local media doesn’t cover building design like they used to.” I listen to these bemoans and reply, “You live in a digital age where you can write and publish virtually anything you want! WRITE and SHOW what you want people to see!” One thing I know for certain is that Kanye works to get his publicity; it certainly doesn’t get written out of thin air while he sits in his over-priced (likely architecturally designed) mansion.
I was recently at a meeting for a woman’s organization and introduced myself as someone who practices architecture for well-known, nation-wide commercial companies. All of them responded with the tone of disbelief when they said, “We had no idea an architect designs those spaces!”* In a snarky undertone I responded with, “How else do you think these places get built?” It was an unexpected educational moment with each side of the spectrum existing in their own bubble of ignorance. How could I, as a design professional, assume that the general public inherently knows that architecture really is in everything? I am a product of my own frustration.
As much as I hate to admit it, Kanye is the impetus for myself as a humblebrag—become the best damn saleswoman around for the architecture profession. Perhaps I should begin to work on isolating the architecting of architecture into easy to digest sound-bytes? How do architects architect? How much could one individual actually communicate? The best architects in the world could probably debate for a solid week and I doubt the message would be unified. Architecture is DEEP, so deep that it could be the equivalent of religious theology (i.e. – talked about at nauseum but never really understood, it is that old after all).
The enormity of the profession and its dutiful role in society has recently been placed into the twitter-sphere under the initiative of @ArchDoesMatter. The national leadership of the AIA publicized its first message on the initiative claiming that architects matter because architecture matters. That is a nice sentiment and all, but how does that really inform the common individual who naively assumes that architects build houses? And while this naivety is humdrum, I just insulted my potential client base because I, as a professional, have not communicated what I do adequately enough. Good-grief, the task of communicating a professions raison d’être is daunting. One must start somewhere I suppose.
How much architecture would an Architect architect
If an Architect could architect architecture?
An Architect would architect, an Architect would,
As much as an Architect could,
And architect as much as an Architect would
If an Architect could architect architecture.
*AIA Minnesota, please don’t fine me, they called me an Architect, they didn’t know it’s illegal to do so.